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North Korea foreign minister: Pompeo derailing denuclearization talks

By Thomas Maresca
North Korea foreign minister: Pompeo derailing denuclearization talks
Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 18, 2018. Friday, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho accused him of derailing denuclearization talks. File Photo by White House/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- North Korea's Foreign Minister slammed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, calling him "a diehard toxin" who is derailing denuclearization talks between the two countries.

In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho criticized "a string of senseless remarks" that Pompeo made about maintaining sanctions against North Korea in an interview this week.

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It appears Ri was referring to an interview with the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, in which Pompeo said he hoped that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was committed to denuclearization but that the United States would continue to maintain punishing sanctions as a form of leverage.

Pompeo said in the interview that if Kim does not commit to dismantling North Korea's nuclear arsenal the United States would "continue to keep on the sanctions that are the toughest in all of history and continue to work towards convincing Chairman Kim and the North Korean leaders that the right thing to do is for them to denuclearize."

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"He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words, which only leave us disappointed and skeptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy," Ri said, calling Pompeo's remarks "hackneyed sanctions rhetoric."

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The North Korean Foreign Minister also criticized the "war exercises" being held on the Korean Peninsula, referring to the joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, as well as the sale of American military hardware to Seoul.

South Korea has ordered 40 F-35A stealth fighters from the United States, a move which North Korea has repeatedly railed against.

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Ri's remarks came on the heels of a statement from a spokesperson for the North Korean Foreign Ministry on Thursday warning that the continuing military exercises and sales of fighter jets would "trigger a new cold war on the Korean Peninsula and in the region."

Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been stalled since a failed summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February.

A surprise meeting between Trump and Kim at the inter-Korean border in June seemed set to kick start working-level negotiations for another summit, but new talks have yet to be held.

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Pyongyang has been seeking relief of punishing sanctions from the United States and the United Nations Security Council in exchange for steps it takes towards dismantling its nuclear program, while Washington has publicly continued to hold out for complete denuclearization before lifting sanctions.

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U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday during a trip to Seoul that the United States was ready to resume talks with North Korea "as soon as we hear from our counterparts."

Ri said that if the United States maintains its "pipe dream of gaining everything through sanctions," North Korea would remain "the biggest threat to the United States."

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"We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off," Ri said.

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